Willy Hutton is a one, isn’t he?

It is a farrago of inconsistent nonsense, resting on the unchallenged assumption that the 1980s transformed the economy for the better. They didn’t. Last week, Thames Water released an excoriating internal report acknowledging that, at current rates of investment, it will take 357 years to renew its water trunk mains even as the number of sometimes life-threatening water main bursts climbs. The merits of privatisation have never seemed more questionable. This is a company that has been looted by its private equity owners for the last decade. In his self-regarding book, The View From Number 11, Lawson writes that the then deputy prime minister, Willie Whitelaw, had the deepest misgivings about water privatisation, which Lawson dismissed. Whitelaw’s judgment has proved the more enduring.

And yet investment in the water network rose considerably after privatisation. Meaning that if lack of investment was the problem then privatisation was a better cure for the problem than state ownership.

16 thoughts on “Willy Hutton is a one, isn’t he?”

  1. The best arguments the lefties have for nationalisation are Scottish Water which is still nationalised, also NI water and Welsh which is not-for-profit.
    The Scots pay £41/yr less than the English on average for water. At this point they stop, argument won. Rent is being extracted by the shareholders south of the border.
    They don’t want to hear about the loan book to fund investment, some from the Scottish govt.

  2. The Unused Testicle

    If Willy thinks a burst water main is life-threatening it must be true that he spends most of his life in the gutter.

  3. Before privatisation, the water from my taps was brown and foul to taste – despite years of complaints. After privatisation, the problem was fixed in 10 weeks. Thus I refute you, Woolly Willy.

  4. If by “a one” you mean a vile sack of socialist shite (more than enough to brownout tapwaters) then yes he is Tim.

    Yes he is.

  5. “it will take 357 years to renew its water trunk mains”

    Under nationalisation the equivalent time frame was effectively infinity.

    The whole water network was badly neglected before privatisation, and in many cases the water companies are not wholly aware of where there underground pipes are or what they are made of. Fortunately under the periodic Price Reviews (PR19 is currently underway) OFWAT gets to set targets for investments and performance targets. Network leakage is still a stupendous number, but less than half the figure at privatisation.

  6. When Thames dug up my N. London street they uncovered the emergency repair done when a V2 took down most of a nearby block. Been leaking profusely since ’44 to the extent it’d eroded an extensive cave system around it. So possibly “life threatening” in the sense that the resultant damage to the sewers allowing foul waste to get into the water table wasn’t particularly a benefit. But trying to hang the results of the 39-45 war on a company didn’t exist ’til the 80’s is stretching things a bit.

  7. So much better that infrastructure is owned and maintained by the state, like the crumbling, cratered dual carriageway near me that is meant to be a major trunk route.

  8. “at current rates of investment”

    The “report” supposes rates will remain unchanged for 357 years?

    At current rates of rising temperature this morning in New York, in only 12 more hours it will be 104 degrees here, shattering all records.

  9. ““it will take 357 years to renew its water trunk mains””

    And? What does that mean in £ s and d? If a pipe in Slough is leaking a few gallons, what does that cost? What does it cost to fix it?

    I’m sure that replacing my old banger will give me better mileage, but I don’t do enough mileage to make it worthwhile. It’s going to save me maybe 30p/journey to work, at best. I’ve got to do 30,000 journeys to work to get a car to pay back.

  10. That would be the State who consistently under-invested in just about every nationalised industry it ever had its mitts on then……..I’d be prepared to bet if BT was still nationalised we’d still have electromechanical phone exchanges.

  11. The rivers are far, far cleaner than they were when local councils controlled water and sewerage.

    We greens thank that a fine thing which is why we approve wholeheartedly of water privatisation.

  12. Bloke in North Dorset


    I think I’ve told this story here, but worth retelling …..

    I remember an interview with Keith Joseph on the subject of privatising what we now call BT. He said they were in a room and been told that the whole exchange system was about to come crashing down if nothing happened quite soon. They had no money after taking over from Labour, again*. Privatisation wasn’t ideological it was necessity.

    Being in the telecom’s business, albeit military side, I can confirm that it was a dire situation, we were well aware that there were serious problems. They couldn’t get spares for their Strowger exchanges and had stopped routine maintenance. They were also under notice that their Crossbar exchange suppliers were about to cease support.

    *TBF, Heath’s government was just as bad.

  13. @Tim Worstall,

    And yet investment in the water network rose considerably after privatisation. Meaning that if lack of investment was the problem then privatisation was a better cure for the problem than state ownership.

    The plethora of EU water quality & sewage laws gold-plated and enforced by UK Gov’t have added huge costs for no return. UK water was clean & healthy since I was born in sixties, unlike many other EU countries whose water I would still be reluctant to drink.

  14. Thames water is a disgrace. The stupid financial engineering and far higher leak rate than any other UK water company. They are the cause of the calls for nationalisation since the leftie opinion formers live in its area. The rest are doing a good job.

  15. @ DevonChap
    Thames Water was a disgrace before it was privatised – my school and its neighbourhood suffered an attack of dysentry while we were taking ‘A’ levels because it fed sewage into our drinking water.
    BUT you are right in that they are bringing privatisation into disrepute – while they were owned by the Germans they failed to invest in repairing leaks as demanded their regulator.

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